Ahab’s Bride

Ahab's BrideAhab’s Bride by Louise M. Gouge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not quite sure what to make of this one, but it was okay. Originally a dissertation project, the time period seems to be thoroughly researched. But despite all the detail, I couldn’t quite put myself into this time and place. There’s a stiffness and formality to the writing that gives this a rather old-fashioned feel and kept me on the “outside” looking in. It is a Christian novel, so the author indulged in a lot of theological dialogue. At least she didn’t seem to be trying to save the reader’s soul! Mostly it seems historically appropriate. I found the background about the Quaker schism interesting. Hannah, herself, seems to be open-minded to different points of view.

Hannah starts out in her marriage to Ahab with a great deal of naivete. Some of the romantic dialog is far too sickeningly saccharine for my taste, but I wouldn’t say this is a romance novel. It is a portrait of a woman, growing and changing over time. Mostly we see her through her relationship with Ahab. The lengthy periods of his absences are glossed over far too quickly. Through her eyes, we see an Ahab that is too perfect to be real in the beginning. I do think the author did a better job with his character following the loss of his leg. One of Hannah’s friends explains toward the end of the book “he’s always had something broken inside” but we don’t really see that foreshadowed at all. It seemed quite an abrupt shift in his personality after the accident. But again, it is all through Hannah’s eyes.

It might be interesting to see how Hannah develops in the next book of the Ahab’s Legacy trilogy now that she is separated permanently from Ahab, but I haven’t decided if I really want to read it or not. I do like the historical detail, and there are hints of what Hannah might become through her interests in transcendentalism and introduction to the thinking of Lucretia Mott.

Description: Before Captain Ahab encountered Moby Dick, he met the woman who would capture his heart – Hannah Oldweiler. This voyage back to 19th Century Nantucket completes the portrait of the man who ruled the sea with an iron will, and introduces us to the woman who had a spirit and determination to match. When Ahab becomes obsessed with settling a score with the great whale, Hannah is left alone to raise their son and to oversee her husband’s estate. Waiting and praying for his safe return, Hannah is faced with loneliness – a deep longing in her soul that not even her husband can meet. Will Hannah become as independent as Ahab? Will she take her future into her own hands? Who will fill the emptiness in her heart?

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Dive Deeper

Dive Deeper: Journeys with Moby-DickDive Deeper: Journeys with Moby-Dick by George Cotkin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t think I need to add anything to the publisher’s description (below.) This is a marvelous book. The topics are random and varied, tied loosely to each chapter of Moby-Dick, and provide insights into Melville’s world and the themes within the novel as well as its influence on music, art, film, and literature since 1851.

Description: Herman Melville’s epic tale of obsession has all the ingredients of a first rate drama–fascinating characters in solitude and society, battles between good and evil, a thrilling chase to the death–and yet its allusions, digressions, and sheer scope can prove daunting to even the most intrepid reader. George Cotkin’s Dive Deeper provides both a guide to the novel and a record of its dazzling cultural train. It supplies easy-to-follow plot points for each of the novel’s 135 sections before taking up a salient phrase, image, or idea in each for further exploration. Through these forays, Cotkin traces the astonishing reach of the novel, sighting the White Whale in mainstream and obscure subcultures alike, from impressionist painting circles to political terrorist cells. In a lively and engaging style, Dive Deeper immerses us into the depths of Melville’s influence on the literature, film, and art of our modern world. Cotkin’s playful wit and critical precision stretch from Camus to Led Zeppelin, from Emerson to Bob Dylan, and bring to life the terrors and wonders of what is arguably America’s greatest novel.

Why Read Moby-Dick?

Why Read Moby-Dick?Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A slim and very readable summation of what makes Moby-Dick great. It almost makes me want to reread it again now.

Description:
Moby-Dick is perhaps the greatest of the Great American Novels, yet its length and esoteric subject matter create an aura of difficulty that too often keeps readers at bay. Fortunately, one unabashed fan wants passionately to give Melville’s masterpiece the broad contemporary audience it deserves. In his National Book Award- winning bestseller, In the Heart of the Sea, Nathaniel Philbrick captivatingly unpacked the story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex, the real-life incident that inspired Melville to write Moby- Dick. Now, he sets his sights on the fiction itself, offering a cabin master’s tour of a spellbinding novel rich with adventure and history.

Philbrick skillfully navigates Melville’s world and illuminates the book’s humor and unforgettable characters-finding the thread that binds Ishmael and Ahab to our own time and, indeed, to all times. A perfect match between author and subject, Why Read Moby-Dick? gives us a renewed appreciation of both Melville and the proud seaman’s town of Nantucket that Philbrick himself calls home. Like Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life, this remarkable little book will start conversations, inspire arguments, and, best of all, bring a new wave of readers to a classic tale waiting to be discovered anew.

Quotes:
“Contained in the pages of Moby-Dick is nothing less than the genetic code of America: all the promises, problems, conflicts, and ideals that contributed to the outbreak of a revolution in 1775 as well as a civil war in 1861 and continue to drive this country’s ever-contentious march into the future. This means that whenever a new crisis grips this country, Moby-Dick becomes newly important. It is why subsequent generations have seen Ahab as Hitler during World War II or as a profit-crazed deep-drilling oil company in 2010 or as a power-crazed Middle Eastern dictator in 2011.” – p. 6

“The novel has inspired plays, films, operas, comic books, a television miniseries, and even a pop-up book. Those who have never read a word of it know the story of Ahab and the White Whale.” – p. 8

Moby-Dick

Moby-DickMoby-Dick by Herman Melville

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Long, rambling, and something of a sea monster of a book. Called by one early critic “a chowder of a book,” I would have to agree. At times it is brilliant, laugh out loud funny, thought-provoking, philosophical, and I can certainly appreciate all the historical detail. It’s just not a subject I have any great interest in, or affinity for. Is it the greatest American novel ever written? It is certainly iconic, and I am glad that I have made the effort to finish the whole thing.

Book Description: The story tells the adventures of wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. Ishmael soon learns that Ahab has one purpose on this voyage: to seek out a specific whale—Moby Dick, a ferocious, enigmatic white sperm whale. In a previous encounter, the whale destroyed Ahab’s boat and bit off his leg, which now drives Ahab to take revenge.

In part, Moby-Dick is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself. But more than just a novel of adventure, more than an encyclopedia of whaling lore and legend, the book can be seen as part of its author’s lifelong meditation on America. Written with wonderfully redemptive humor, Moby-Dick is also a profound inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception.

Opening lines: “Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.”